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Arms Transfer to Conflict-Prone Regions: IHL and Human Rights Criteria under the Arms Trade Treaty

The Geneva Centre for Security Policy (GCSP) organised on 4th October 2018 in association with the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights an International Humanitarian Law Talk titled “Arms Transfer to Conflict-Prone Regions: IHL and Human Rights Criteria under the Arms Trade Treaty”.

The panel was moderated by Ms Annyssa Bellal, Strategic Adviser on International Humanitarian Law and Senior Research Fellow at the Geneva Academy. The panellists included Ambassador Socorro Flores Liera, Permanent Representative of Mexico to the United Nations Office in Geneva, Ms Nina Joyce, Policy and Government Liaison Officer, Control Arms and Mr Tobias Vestner, Head of Security and Law Programme of the GCSP.

The event started with opening remarks by Professor Marco Sassòli, Director of the Geneva Academy. He highlighted the importance of Articles 6 and 7 of the ATT in connection with the obligation of States to respect and ensure respect of IHL in the context of the arms trade.

Ambassador Socorro Flores Liera presented the position of Mexico and its interest in the agenda. She discussed poorly regulated markets and easy availability of arms. She continued with a talk on diversion and presented the position of Mexico where the armed forces are the sole exporter and producer of arms. She then discussed the challenges in Latin America and the power of organized crime in destabilizing States.

Ms Nina Joyce reflected upon the connection between arms export and refugee flows, human rights violations and gender-based violence. She noted that international human rights law and international humanitarian law are at the centre of the ATT and also presented different effects of arms exports on men and women as well as the link between accessibility of arms and gender-based violence. She also reflected upon the regulation of the ATT which is at the same time aiming to reduce the illicit trade of arms and specifically noted that implementation is insufficient in case of the Yemeni crises. She also explained how the ATT contributes to the implementation of the UN Millennium Goals and the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security.

Mr Tobias Vestner discussed in his contribution the four drivers of the international arms trade, namely geopolitics, security, economics and ethics. He discussed the treaty negotiations and the treaty´s role, which is regulating the arms trade. He also reflected upon the ATT as being a compromise of negotiations with many provisions reflecting what diplomats tend to call constructive ambiguity. He continued with how the ATT applies to non-state actors and how uncontrolled brokering affects diversion. He then highlighted the need for debate on the export criteria which can be interpreted differently.


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